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Traumatic Stress Response Team focuses on resilience

By Robert Goetz | Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs | Jan. 31, 2013

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — Airmen and civilians who encounter difficult events in their lives - from natural disasters and deaths of loved ones to combat situations - have shoulders to lean on as they heal their emotional wounds.

A group of wingmen, known as the Traumatic Stress Response Team, is trained to help people cope with trying circumstances and prepare them for potentially traumatic events.

"The TSR program is focused on trying to mitigate the adverse outcomes and long-term consequences of traumatic events through a series of initiatives," Capt. (Dr.) Timothy Rogers, 359th Medical Operations Squadron Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Element chief, said. "What's great is that the team is not just composed of staff members from the mental health flight, but also from the Airman and Family Readiness Center and chaplain office, as well as peer representatives."

Air Force Instruction 44-153 refers to TSR as a "coordinated response initiated by unit leaders in which the TSR team engages in the provision of services to individuals and groups who may have or who have had direct exposure to a potentially traumatic event."

Pre-exposure preparation, one of the services provided, is geared to Airmen and civilians more likely to experience traumatic events. TSR team members, typically from the mental health flight, discuss normal stress responses and describe techniques to manage stress.

"For pre-exposure briefings, we try to reach out to high-risk career fields, such as medical staff, firefighters, search and recovery, and security forces," Tech. Sgt. Brian Hornberger, 359th MDOS Mental Health Flight chief, said.

For people who have been exposed to traumatic events, the TSR team provides education, intervention, screening, psychological first aid and referral, if necessary.

Representatives from the chaplain office specialize in bereavement counseling, Hornberger said, while the A&FRC hosts and supports the Emergency Family Assistance Control Center in times of disaster response, identifying populations needing intervention and community needs that can be met by TSR resources.

He said A&FRC representatives "also bring knowledge of additional resources to the team."

Rogers said people who have been exposed to traumatic events are allowed up to four free one-on-one meetings with TSR team members, but only for education and consultation, not for medical assessment and treatment. These sessions are not noted in the person's medical record.

If further services are required, these individuals are referred to resources on base or in the community, Rogers said.

"We educate people about their reactions," he said. "If their feelings persist, we tell them where they can go for follow-up."

Prevention is not confined to pre-exposure briefings. The mental health flight offers classes at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Health and Wellness Center that help Airmen, dependents and civilians deal with everyday stressors as well as prepare them for potentially traumatic situations. These include "Stress Management/Relaxation Techniques" and "Master Your Emotions."

"We're definitely here to respond to traumatic events, but we are also proactive," Rogers said. "We want to help instill resiliency so people are aware of what their stressors are and how to deal with them."

Hornberger said resilience is "the whole purpose" of traumatic stress response.